TANZANIA – The Tanzania Plant Health and Pesticide Authority (TPHPA) has imposed import bans on soybeans and maize seeds from Malawi in a strategic move to safeguard its agricultural sector.

The bans come in the wake of comprehensive Pest Risk Analyses conducted by the TPHPA, revealing potential threats to Tanzania’s agricultural produce.

TPHPA is the National Plant Protection Organization established under the Ministry of Agriculture by the Plant Health Act No.4 of 2020.

The agency is responsible for pesticide control, phytosanitary measures, and prevention of pest introduction and spread

According to Professor Joseph Ndunguru, TPHPA Director General’s recent statement, the analyses identified the presence of the Tobacco Ringspot Virus (TRSV), a disease known to cause severe damage to soybean crops, in Malawi.

The virus is known to cause substantial damage to soybean crops, resulting in yield reductions and economic losses ranging from 25% to 100% for farmers, according to the statement.

In response, the TPHPA indefinitely prohibited the importation of soybeans and their products from Malawi until further notice to prevent the virus from infiltrating Tanzania’s crops.

However, some analysts are calling Tanzania’s action retaliatory, as it comes a few days after Malawi banned maize imports from Tanzania and Kenya over maize lethal necrosis disease in those two countries.

Grace Mijiga-Mhango, President of the Grain Traders Association of Malawi, said Tanzania’s ban on soybeans from Malawi is not surprising.

“We call it a trade war,” she said. “They started the war, and their friends are fighting back.”

Tanzania is among the biggest importers of soybeans from Malawi.

In February, Tanzania’s High Commissioner to Malawi committed to facilitate the purchase of 100,000 metric tons of soybeans from Malawi, worth about US$30 million.

Agriculture authorities in Malawi say the country harvested about 400,000 metric tons of soybeans in the 2022-23 season.

Concerns over genetically modified maize seeds

Simultaneously, the ongoing Pest Risk Analysis revealed concerns related to the introduction of Genetically Modified (GM) maize seeds from Malawi.

This action is consistent with Tanzania’s interim bio-safety regulations that only permit small-scale confined GMO trials, not commercial production.

The ban extends to transit shipments as well. Further, the TPHPA has suspended the processing and issuance of phytosanitary import clearances for maize seeds.

“To ensure compliance with these regulations, the TPHPA has instituted a temporary ban on all maize seed imports from Malawi, including transit shipments until the risk associated with GMOs is clarified,” Prof Nduguru said.

The decisions reflect Tanzania’s commitment to maintaining a non-GMO status in its agricultural practices.

Notably, soybean production in Tanzania has witnessed a significant increase, from 8,100 metric tons in 2012 to 25,900 metric tons in 2022.

This rise indicates an expanded awareness of healthy diets and an increased demand for ingredients in livestock feed.

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